Sunday, February 10, 2008

My local, friendly JD Wetherspoons

Being humiliated and screamed at was something I thought I'd left behind me with my family. Perhaps that's why it was both so unexpected and difficult to deal with last night.

I didn't really want to go, didn't really feel 100%, but it was Zelda's birthday so I felt obligated to, at least for one drink. As is always the way, once I was there I was really glad I went and met all sorts of friends of friends I'd not met before.

When I arrived I went and sat down before going to the bar and ordering myself a glass of orange juice and a bowl of chips for us all to pick at. Both Ziggy and his gf immediately offered to go to the bar for me, as they always do, being a protective and considerate bunch, but at the time I could do it myself so that's what I did. Independence being important an' all that.

Meeting sis's ex had made it somewhat of an emotionally trying night, and physically so because I'd gone outside to chat to him whilst he smoked, and sat on a metal chair in the cold. I had a proper coat and gloves on, but it was still too cold for me, and combined with another trip to the bar to buy him a sympathy drink and trips to the loo, I was all done being able to move around by the end of the night.

When it came to closing time, initially a female (slightly older) member of staff came over and asked us to stand up and move to the door where they were trying to get everyone out. Ziggy, by then very drunk and in full on protective mode didn't need to ask me to know that was going to be a problem and said to the lady something about my having mobility problems and that we needed to wait sitting down until the crowd had cleared. She was fine about that and carried on with her job.

The male manager was having none of it however. He came over and immediately started shouting. Whilst Ziggy (somewhat slurrily) attempted to explain that I had mobility issues and we just wanted to wait sitting down whilst the crush at the door cleared, the manager found that unacceptable and said to me directly that I did not have mobility problems because he'd served me a bowl of chips at the bar earlier and I had been standing. I can only assume he chose to ignore the orange juice I ordered during his rant as a sober person didn't fit with his theory of lying about disability.

Unsurprisingly it all got a bit heated at that point, the manager was determined to communicate only by screaming or shouting and was not going to back down. Ziggy was incensed, I was shocked, angry and deeply humiliated, and of course whereas initially it had been just a couple of us quietly sitting down asking to wait, and repeatedly insisting we didn't want to keep our drinks that they could clear them, it very quickly escalated to everyone left in the pub staring and those from the wider group of friends who were left coming back to back us up.

The manager continued to shout at myself and Ziggy in front of the entire pub, as things progressed he must've realised he'd made a mistake accusing me of not having any mobility issues, but he was not going to back down and tried to say that I could sit and wait, but that Ziggy and all my other friends had to leave and that he or another member of staff would assist me. Unsurprisingly I found that unacceptable and told him so, but he didn't want to back down on that either and continued to shout. I suggested (loudly and somewhat angrily by this time) that under the terms of Disability Discrimination Act he might just find we were in the right, but he still didn't want to back down and continued to scream and shout.

What I hadn't wanted to say during all this was that after moving around too much earlier, being out in the cold, and then sitting for too long, I couldn't get up. That in itself can be a bit humiliating, but I'm lucky to have great friends who offer help appropriately and don't insist on doing things if I say I can or want to do them myself. It certainly wasn't something I was prepared to start explaining to the manager of a Wetherspoons who had already accused me of lying about my disability, refused all reasonable requests for a very minor adjustment and who now wanted me to be left on my own, in a highly vulnerable position and accept assistance from the very person who'd just screamed at me for the past 5 minutes. The answer he got was simply that that was entirely unacceptable and that did he really want to go there.

He did. The guy just would not back down. He tried insisting that they would provide assistance for a few more moments, screaming and shouting whilst Ziggy in an absolute (drunken) fury demanded the police be called. I said that was neither necessary or appropriate (although had the manager not backed down eventually we'd probably have been left with no choice) and that I didn't want the police, but was insistent about the DDA again and by that point I think the manager had realised he'd made a major error in judgement and in some way was going to have to back down.

He wouldn't let it go though and insisted Ziggy had to leave. Pointed to Zelda, appointing her as the one he deemed acceptable to stay and help me, and told Ziggy to go. Fortunately Ziggy did and didn't argue the point further, although as Zelda was just as drunk as Ziggy the only possible reason for insisting he leave and she stay could have been to do with Ziggy arguing with him.

Zelda and I sat and waited, whilst another girl I've known for years came over to say hello and give me a hand. She knew some of the bar staff and had obviously been telling them the manager had made a mistake whilst he was too busy screaming and shouting to listen to reason.

We waited for the crush at the door to clear, but before long the manager was back insisting the crowd had gone and we had to leave now. We were not the last people in the pub by any means, but by then I just wanted to go home anyway, and there wasn't so much of a crowd I was afraid of being knocked over or getting multiple dislocations as we tried to get through. The manager was so insistent we had to get out there was no way he would have allowed us to wait until it was actually safe, so with assistance from Zelda on one side and the other girl I knew on the other we made our way to the door. On our way there the female member of staff asked if we were ok, and I told her I would be making a formal complaint about the incident. She told me he was the manager as if to say there was nothing she or I could do about it. The area around the inside and outside of the doors was still dangerously crowded as we tried to get out, to where Ziggy and the others were waiting to help.

This morning I'm still horrified, as well as humiliated, angry and upset about the whole thing. Whilst I'm aware I have a mainly invisible disability, my size makes me noticeably vulnerable looking and I do walk with a very visible 'gimp' (it's not a limp before anyone objects to the term). I also understand that people try it on at the end of the night in pubs, but that doesn't make the manager's behaviour in any way acceptable. Had he just asked a question about what the problem was rather than immediately starting screaming and shouting at us the whole event could have been avoided.

2008. Disability Discrimination Act 1995. We've got a very long way to go.


cogidubnus said...

I'm appalled at this, though like yourself I'm aware some people do try it on at closing time...

I'm appalled, not just because of your disability issues, but that a supposedly trained pub manager felt he was going to solve any problem with anybody ("able bodied" or not) by getting in their face and shouting...

Confrontation like this is, seriously, a good way to gain permanent disability of his own and responsible pub chains do train their staff NOT to do things this way...

You really MUST write to Wetherspoons and yes I'm afraid you MUST play the DDA card...

The sooner this bigoted snot gets the bums rush, the sooner he'll be safer too...

kingmagic said...

Lil sis...tell me where it happened and I,ll pop round and "have a few words" with the gentleman in question.

If this fails then allow me please to punch his f*****g lights out whilst shouting at him...please it would be my pleasure to rectify this failure of communication.

And I,d also tell him that Wetherspoons chips are crap....

km x

Jim said...

That's a dreadful scenario. I hope you will complain (and maybe go to the press which is something these characters really hate!)

faceless said...

I think it would be worth contacting Weatherspoons head office. They seem to value their reputation for corporate benevolence (see
so while you may not see much more than a stock apology letter there is always the chance that the manager may himself get a lecture from corporate. Your complaint may not do much, but if no one complains, nothing ever will get done.

Jim said...

Actually, having thought about this some more (I'm a bit slow on Sundays!). Can I also suggest you write to your local licensing board about this incident. If that happened here, and we got a letter about it, we would have the manager in front of the board to address the issue.

LceeL said...

It's not fair, how some people treat others. My wife feels the stares when she parks in the Handicap spot, even though she has the proper license plates on her car. She doesn't have that 'visible handicap'. She, like you, has Ehlers Danlos. Apparently, from what I have read of your posts, not quite as severely as you do, but close. Ehlers is bad enough, but to suffer the stares and the attitudes of others is even worse. And perhaps what makes it even worse is the knowledge that it is not something that is ever going to get any better. The best you can hope for is to hold your own - to hang on to what you've got. Find yourself a good solicitor and sue. There's is no reason on God's good earth why you should have to put up with that shit. Period.

Vi said...

You better well make an official complaint about this, it's not on! What a twat!

Emma said...

I am so sorry you had to go through this Bendy, I can't wait to see there reaction to your letter and yes take it to the licensing authority too, this guy is just a bully disabled or not you don't speak to someone like that.

I can't imagine for one moment if he was trying to remove a 6' 2" gorilla he would dare even look at him.

Good luck babe..xx

Mary said...

I know it's horrible to complain and tiring to go through processes, but at the very least, fire off an email to Wetherspoons head office.

OK, they might ignore it, but maybe, just maybe, that 'manager' will get a rocket up the arse.

lilwatchergirl said...

That is beyond indescribably appalling.

Complain - to the branch in question, and copy the complaint to head office as well. Then ring the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and get advice on whether you have a case against them. A letter from one of their caseworkers can TERRIFY some of these people. They *cannot* be allowed to get away with it.

Also, have you thought of carrying the HMSA card? I sometimes get it out when people are denying that there's anything wrong with me. I back that up with DDA threats. Seems to help.

So sorry to hear this happened to you, and I hope you feel a bit less shaky about it soon.

Katrin said...

DDA 1995, yes a long way to go. Here in the US we have ADA 1990 and also have a long way to go.

I'm sorry you had to go through that. And entirely agree the manager was not in any way acceptable. Screaming and shouting and telling people they are wrong (ie no, you don't have a disability I saw you do x-y-z an hour ago) is unacceptable.

Hope your letter makes a difference.

spleenal said...

yep sorry you do need to write to Weatherspoons.
you don't need money or an apology and there's nothing you can do that will undo that night but you owe it to the next person in that bar with a disability. You can help them.

My "condition" is unbeliveably mild compared to you but I've found that people have trouble understanding that some times you're fine and sometimes you're not.

people think that you've either got something wrong with you or you've not.

steph said...

BG - I'm outraged to hear of the abuse you suffered last night.

It reminded me very much of the words below from the Ehlers-Danlos Support Group (UK) website, which I always thought nicely summed up one of the major issues associated with EDS.

"The main problem with having Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is that the person can look very fit and may often not be believed that they have joint pain etc."

How right they are! But it doesn't excuse that guy's appalling behaviour.

Hope you got my email btw?

The Shrink said...


Much badness.

Marla said...

I have not been to a bar in years! Pitiful. Or maybe that is a good thing? Sounds like people get a little 'not too nice' towards the end of the night.

I think that manager sounds quite unintelligent. Your friends sound fantastic.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Cogi: You are quite right, especially about the confrontation issue, because he was so in our faces and shouting it meant everyone (especially those who'd been drinking) immediately shouted back and things became unnecessarily heated.

KM: Thanks big bro. Funnily enough the BYM wanted to go 'visit' this guy too, you can go together! And yes, the chips are crap, so crap most weren't eaten! lil sis x

Jim: TY I will write a letter of complaint and copy it to the licensing board (thanks for that tip!) I'm very reluctant to get the press involved though, it might seem strange for a blogger, but the idea of that kind of attention makes me very nervous BG

Faceless: You are absolutely right, and I intend to email wetherspoons complaints dept. TY

lceel: TY, I think it's something those of us with invisible disabilities know all too well, although I must say I've never experienced quite such bad behaviour outside of the medical profession (prior to my diagnosis) and even they didn't quite reach that level.
I'm not sure if this is something people would sue over in the UK, possibly under our DDA laws, but in all honesty they aren't terribly strong and place the responsibility on the individual so it's not something I'm aware of solicitors taking on much. I expect that will eventually change.

Vi: I will! I wondered what you'd think about this with all your pub experience.

Emma: Thanks, I'll keep you all posted! x

Mary: You're spot on, the thought of going through a complaints process and all that's involved is daunting to say the least. Like you say though I am going to email wetherspoons head office and as others have suggested copy that to the licensing authority.

Lilwatchergirl: TY, I plan to complain to head office but not the branch as the guy is a manager it seems pointless. Is the Equalities/Human righs the new name for the DRC?
I did mention DDA, several times but the guy was having none of it. It didn't occur to me, but I think it would have been pointless to show him any evidence. I don't personally carry an HMSA card, partly because I don't have HMS/EDSIII and partly because my personal opinion is that unfortunately the information on their is somewhat poor and misleading. I do however have both the EDS and EDNF wallet cards though, but the EDNF one is the only one I ever use because of personal feelings about the quality of information.
Thank you for your advice and support. x

Katrin: TY, I hope so too.

Spleenal: I think we've got one hell of a way to go before the 'public' have any kind of realistic understanding of disability. Atm it's all either 'wheelchair bound' or 'those scary, dangerous, mentally ill people' well, that and benefit scroungers of course ;) I do hope you're feeling better by now x

Steph: Yes, you're absolutely right, if I could have £1 for every person who told me I was too slim/attractive/young/insert your own compliment to have a disability I'd have no need for state benefits. There's just something about it that doesn't fit with people's understanding of the world. We've got such a long way to go.
I got your email ty so much, I'm just really far behind on replying! xx

The Shrink: Hello, ty. Well summed up!

Marla: Hello! You're not missing anything. This was a pub rather than a bar, so supposedly a more relaxed environment. I don't go often because of concerns about crowds etc. The manager was obviously a tragic little man, but you're right, my friends are fantastic, and not having had good friends before I appreciate them all the more. BG x

Scarred4life said...

oh my gosh!
What an absolutely DRADFUL experience!
not only should you complain to head office about his behaviour,but I would suggest getting the council involved,especially as he blatantly disregarded the disability act.A friend of mine did this and had quite a successful outcome!
~squishy hugs~

Auntie Jane said...

OMG... I can't add anything to what has been advised, except that I think you should complain too. I'm horrified at that man's attitude and behaviour.

Keep strong. You have a lot of friends in Cyber Space... Auntie Jane

BenefitScroungingScum said...

S4L: TY honey, I've been writing my letter up today, as you and others have suggested I'm going to copy it to the council. Good luck with the baby! x

AJ: TY. What a lovely thing to say, isn't it funny this whole cyber 'family' thing. BG x

Pixie said...

What an appalling experience.
There is no excuse for the manager's behaviour, hope you se the complaint through.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Pixie: Good to see you back in blogland :) I spent a large part of yesterday trying to get a complaint letter together, so hope to finish it off and get it posted today, I'll let you all know as soon as I hear anything! BG x

Stonehead said...

Their press office and customer services people now know about this, as do a few journalists I still know.

Sorry for the slow response, but I've been busy and not visited your blog for a while.

dND said...

Just linked here from Stoney's blog. What a terrible experience. I can understand the managers point of view in the first instance but and a very big but, any reasonable person would have had the decency to speak to you, not yell, and to let you explain.

One of the first rules of dealing with people in a crowd situation or possibly causing difficulties is never, ever do anything to inflame a situation. It's also part of the door staff training and I'm sure he must have had to go through that (forgotten what its called, sorry)

I'm not implying that you were causing bother, what I mean is that might have been his first assessment from a distance. You refusing to get up and he'd seen you at the bar earlier and your companion having a drink too many.

He is totally unsuitable to be running a public house, he could start a riot with an attitude like that. You really must write to Wetherspoon's head office. The licensing board of the council is a really good idea too, I wouldn't have thought of that and if you can handle the publicity, the local paper too.

I know what's been done, can't be undone, but I hope you are feeling better. There are a lot of positive feelings flowing your way.

All the best,

Anonymous said...

I rarely go to Wetherspoons. I used to work in one in Bristol but left after getting racial taunts by other members of staff. A number of the staff never cared about the customers, they only saw it as a means to help them financially through uni. Even the husband & wife managers weren't much better.
We went for Christmas dinner with friends to another Wetherspoons. Food was rubbish, and one pudding was unacceptable - they refused a refund, only offering a free drink instead.
Beer - well, they used to pour the drip tray liquid into one of the lagers and the bitter drip trays into the cheap ale.
So, enter at your own risk.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Stonehead: Thank you so much for all you have done over this. BG x

Deborah: Hello, welcome. Thank you for your comments. I look considerably younger than I actually am, and sat down certainly appear perfectly 'fit and well' so I can also understand that on first assessment there wouldn't appear to be any reason to remain seated. However, I haven't had problems like this in any other pub/club, not that I go often, but I've always found staff to be really helpful once the situation is explained to them. The problem here was that he simply would not let us explain, and would only scream and shout. As you rightly say he could start a riot like that and is putting himself and his staff as well as customers at risk. Thanks again for the support. BG

Anon: Hello, and thank you. I'm very sorry to hear you were treated so appallingly by wetherspoons staff. It's disgraceful.
As a side issue I would never choose to go there, I hate the place, but it's our local pub, and cheap so I can either see my friends and go, or not and isolate myself. Crap choices! BG

Stonehead said...

Wetherspoons have criticised LibDem MP Vince Cable for using them as an example of a socially irresponsible pub chain in one of his jokes. So, I've emailed his office, telling them to have a look at this post as it will confirm that he was indeed correct in his description of the company.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Stonehead: Wow, thank you so much. Vince Cable is ace, I wonder if there will be any response from his office. I've received Wetherspoons response which is essentially that they are not apologising, ignoring the whole disability/DDA issue and trying to say Ziggy was asked to leave because of his behaviour (he wasn't)
I need to post updating on the subject. BG

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry about your incident at your weatherspoons.
it shouldn't matter that it was the manager that was so abusive, i would push the complaint and get the man fired, what a twat basically. i don't know what the man's problem was but that is no excuse for such a bad attitude problem.
but that's the thing isn't it, in even company there is a bad apple. i read the last comment and i can't believe that they are shifting the blame to your friend ziggy, you have witnesses. i would suggest taking it to your local paper.

Anonymous said...

JD Wetherspoon's pub chain, and its management policy, is a good example of the old folk-adage that 'if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys'. Young, inexperienced bar-staff employed by JD's are used to train new staff, but are themselves on the 'minimum wage'..

This cheap labour philosophy also produces unsavoury incidents: a young man comes into a JDW pub with his girlfriend just three or four minutes before closing time- told the pub is closed, they turn away and leave. Minutes later, the barman carries out the till trays. Minutes later- ie and closing time has now passed- a man walks over to the bar, orders drinks and is served. The young man turned away was white, his girlfriend was black- we have to just hope that was co-incidental though, don't we..

Paulm696 said...

I hope you complained to there head office, and if you did and are waiting I can tell you the responce you will recieve right now if you like.....It has been passed on to the area manager to deal with....In the meantime YOU are barred from the pub. The manager(haha) does not want you back in the pub and does not have to give a reason. JD weatherspoons are supporting him in this matter. Its nothing short of a joke.

Anonymous said...

I work for JD.W i kno u will understand my anonymity.

I cant understand y he was like that. My managers wouldnt have gotten involved after staff had been over n given u the ok to stay. Y were they trying to shepherd u all out the door in a crush neway?! Talk about health n safety nightmare! Its not like u were causing a scene b4 his outburst.

If u go into a spoons now they give out a lil card for feed back. There is contact info.
Get a complaint in coz its not on the the bosses woupd b fumin!